We Need a Clean Vote Now on Afghanistan Escalation

Under our constitutional democracy, Congress has the power and the
responsibility to establish a policy on President Obama's plans to
send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and, if Congress opposes
sending more troops, to try to block or alter this policy. The
question now is whether Congress will act before the policy is
implemented, and whether it will do so in a "clean" vote - an up or
down vote solely on the question of sending more troops, unentangled
with unrelated issues like flood relief for farmers or extending
unemployment benefits.

If Congress does not act quickly, the President's proposal may become
an accomplished fact. Already, President Obama has ordered Marine
units to be deployed later this month. If Congress waits for months to
debate the issue, most of the new troops may already be in place.

Anti-war Representatives are pressing for an early vote on funding for
more troops so President Obama's policy will be judged by Congress
before thousands of additional troops are sent into combat, the
Politico reports.
"Let us have this debate before he moves forward," Rep. Jim McGovern
[D-MA] said. "I'd like it to be before we escalate one single American
troop over there."

For most of the Iraq war, Congress typically waited until late May or
June to approve emergency war funding. The last war supplemental was
approved in mid-June. If Congress waits until May or June to render
judgment on President Obama's plans, most of the troops may already be
in place, making it much harder for Congress to oppose or limit their
deployment. If Congress acts now - particularly the House, more
influenced by public opinion - it can stop or limit funding for the
President's troop increase by a simple majority vote. You can urge
your Representative and Senators to support a clean vote now on
military escalation in Afghanistan by clicking here.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the House would oppose funding
for military escalation in a clean vote. But a clean vote would be
likely to be a real contest, which would, at the very least,
underscore for world opinion the depth of Democratic opposition to the
indefinite continuation of the war, an act which would in itself help
to speed the conclusion of the war.

Already in the summer, a majority of House Democrats, including
members of the House leadership, voted for Representative McGovern's
amendment requiring the Pentagon to present Congress with an exit
strategy. That was before the fiasco of the Afghan election, before
General McChrystal's grim assessment of the status quo and future
prospects, before President Obama proposed to send 30,000 more troops
without establishing a date for ending U.S. military involvement.

MoveOn, whose membership is broadly reflective of politically active
Democrats, polled
1% of its membership
in the wake of the President's speech, which
one would have expected would give a temporary bounce among Democrats
to support for the President's position. Asked to report their
intensity of agreement with the statement, "We should establish a
clear military exit strategy from Afghanistan with a firm timeline,"
the average response was 8.5 out of 10. If one assumes that the 16.1%
of MoveOn respondents who said they "supported" the war completely
disagreed with the demand for an exit strategy with a firm timeline,
then among the remaining 83.9% of MoveOn respondents, the average
agreement with the statement, "We should establish a clear military
exit strategy from Afghanistan with a firm timeline" was 9.94 out of

MoveOn is asking its members to sign a petition
that says:

"Congress must push the Obama administration to outline
firm benchmarks and a binding timeline to bring all of our troops home
from Afghanistan as soon as possible."

That suggests that MoveOn will support legislation that imposes a
binding timeline for withdrawal. That's an indicator that an
overwhelming majority of House Democrats could be influenced to vote
for such legislation. That suggests that Members of Congress will be
likely to introduce such legislation, if given the opportunity. That
suggests that a Congressional debate and vote on escalation now could
change the course of U.S. policy.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.